This chapter uses an English-school lens to look at the current enthusiasm for the idea of global civil society (GCS). Its particular focus is to bring together the idea of GCS and the English-school concept of ‘world society’. Both concepts highlight the political dimension of the non-state universe, and both also carry a liberal programme aimed at constraining and/or reforming state power. Both therefore share two problems: how to define the content of the non-state universe; and how to handle the tensions between the needs of activists pursuing a normative agenda on the one hand, and those of analysts needing a concept with which to capture the non-state, deterritorialised elements in world politics on the other. These problems are linked, and examining the better-developed GCS debate throws useful light on how to develop the world society concept. Activists are constrained not only by their campaigning needs, but also by a dual meaning inherent in ‘civil’, to define GCS in ways that construct it as ‘nice’. Doing so raises two questions: how to handle the dark side of the non-state world represented by various kinds of organised extremists and criminals; and how to handle the global economy and its non-state actors (whether as part of GCS or as one of its targets). Analysts need a concept that captures the non-state political universe whether ‘nice’ or ‘nasty’. The argument is that the needs of activists and analysts may well be irreconcilable. The debates around these concepts have roots in classical ideological divisions. Until recently, they opened a divide between economic and social liberals, but with the rise of concern about terrorism, they may return to a much older and deeper clash between liberal and conservative views of the relationship between state and society.